Innovation Saskatchewan is responsible for implementing the province’s innovation priorities and helping grow Saskatchewan’s tech sector. Effective April 2022, this includes operation of the Innovation Place technology parks in Saskatoon and Regina.

BetterCart Pivots to Help You Find What's In Stock During the Pandemic

Picture this: you run out of milk/chips/diaper cream, so quickly rush to the nearest store and buy whatever is there, not looking at the price. Then, the next day, doing your full grocery shop at your preferred store, you notice the milk/chips/diaper cream is way, way cheaper. So annoying, but we do it all the time.

It was one such frustrating experience that pushed Melanie Morrison to create BetterCart, an online platform designed to help people become better informed about local grocery prices and save money. “The reality is we never go back home, grab our receipt and head off to the better store,” Morrison told Innovation Place. “I thought ‘Wouldn't it be great if we had some way to look up prices quickly to see if I should go to store A or B and save my money?’ But it didn't actually exist.”

In late 2018, Morrison took her deep-seated passion for this idea and decided to go for it. She joined Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK) who suggested she check out a Co.mmunity event at Co.Labs, Saskatchewan’s first technology incubator located at Innovation Place in Saskatoon. In early 2019, she participated in the Co.Launch program, won the final pitch competition, and a spot in Co.Labs. “When you're in those doors and part of that network, you gain access to mentorship, networking opportunities, and individuals, all working to help you," Morrison said of the immersive and supportive environment at Co.Labs. In September 2019, BetterCart went on to be selected as one of four companies in the province to attend Saskatoon Regional Economic Development AuthoritySREDA’s The Tech Trip to San Francisco, and Morrison recently received Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) funding.

Now, BetterCart has carved out a unique spot on the spectrum of grocery-related platforms: it is the only price comparison grocery site and the only consumer-focused grocery site. Online delivery apps, like Instacart, provide a key service for those unable to go to the store, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, but the choice of stores is typically limited, substitutions often made, there’s no built-in price comparison mechanism, not to mention the process can still be laborious. Other grocery apps do little more than digitize flyers.

BetterCart goes further to put the power back in the consumers’ hands and strives to create transparency with prices across grocery stores. "Our job at BetterCart is to make this as swift as possible, streamlined as possible, and pain free, so people can move along in their day and save money while they do it," said Morrison.

BetterCart pivots with What’s In Stock

Recently, due to the pandemic, a different scenario has been plaguing shoppers: you go to the store and “ugh, they’re still out of disinfectant wipes and active dry yeast!” BetterCart can help with that too now with their new app What’s In Stock.

“Initially when COVID-19 began, a panic set in. People were loading up and wiping out the stock levels and then it shifted from product to product,” said Morrison. “The common theme throughout this was Canadians were having challenges at the grocery store. We thought we could do something to help.”

Morrison and her team did a two-week sprint to develop What’s In Stock and, along with BetterCart, fully fit it for mobile launch. What’s In Stock is part of the new “social distancing technology” environment and Morrison believes it’s a preventative measure for people to see if items are in stores before they venture out. What’s In Stock’s functionality depends on crowd-sourcing information or simply put, relying on the social good of people to go on What’s In Stock and update the availability of products for the benefit of the community. "It's a way to pay it forward, to do a good deed for others and keep people safe," said Morrison.

A BetterCart for the Future

"We want BetterCart to become a household name in this country," said Morrison. BetterCart is bringing a standard of transparency to the grocery industry and Morrison wants to expand its ability to save people money by partnering with government ministries and organizations, focusing on providing services like budgeting and food preparation.

"We know that many people in this country are being left behind economically and if anything COVID-19 has shone a light on that fact that there are so many people that cannot go more than two weeks without a pay cheque or won't be able to put groceries on their table," said Morrison.

Morrison also hopes to partner with local brands and farms to provide an alternative option to the big brands and support ethical and environmentally sustainable local food producers across Canada. This holistic view of grocery shopping is what will help make BetterCart a go-to platform.

And in the far-off future, Morrison sees the potential to expand. “Why not become that place for the drugstores pricing, home improvement store pricing and pet industry pricing, and then move into different products and verticals and outside of Canada."

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- June 9, 2020